Most couples get married in their twenties. In Utah, the statistics show marriages occur in their early twenties, or even late teens for some women. Research suggests our beliefs change over our lifespan, including our religious and spiritual convictions. No matter the reason, it is extremely common for one partner (or both) to change their religious views over time. Because religious beliefs in Utah (primarily members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) require strict adherence, stress from a spouse questioning or leaving the faith can create tension and pressure on the relationship.
The irony is, LDS theology promotes the importance of the family, yet, when such stressors encumber the relationship, it’s the marriage that suffers at the hand of obedience or compliance. Many couples experience a form of betrayal, fear, or disruption of intimacy and connectedness. Some of my clients report the grief of losing the assurance of their eternal marriage, feeling the risk of an affair, substance use changes or experimentation, or other unwanted behaviors.
A faith transition, however, isn’t a predictor of the failure of the relationship. With time, support, and tools, couples often unify and strengthen their relationship. Couples find shared values and bond by moving into a space of curiosity, openness, and acceptance while also validating and “holding space” for their partner.
Wasatch Family Therapy is hosting a group for five couples currently struggling with a mixed-faith marriage. Group meetings occur each Wednesday starting March 3rd at our new address in Sandy. Couples will need to be interviewed (to make sure it’s a good fit) and will need to pay half upfront; the remainder billed after the eight sessions. Sessions are $75 per couple per session. This group will be a “process group”, where couples participate interactively learning about each other. The group will be facility lead by Jeff Lundgren, ACMHC, who works with many couples and mixed-faith marriages and families.
If you want to participate, please contact us at 801-944-4555.
Really, right now take a few seconds to focus on your breath. Notice what it feels like as it goes in through your nose and out through your mouth. A faith transition can be frightening and incredibly disorienting. Maybe you have that feeling of waking up in a strange place in the middle of the night, wondering where you are, only to remember you’re visiting a new town. Give yourself a moment to breathe, think, and become acquainted with this foreign land. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes you might feel excited or like you are on a new adventure. Sometimes you might feel hurt or betrayed. Sometimes you may feel lonely and out of place, but remind yourself that these emotions, like waves will go in and then go back out. Notice how you’re feeling without judgement.
Start with What You Know
When your world feels turned upside down, it can feel like you don’t know what to think, believe, or know anymore. That’s ok. Start with what you do believe or what you do know. Maybe you believe in service or the power of good people to make a difference. Maybe you know how important your best friend is to you or that mint chocolate chip is still your favorite ice cream. What do you value? What is important to you? Make a list.
When you lose a community or separate from important people in your life, you may up feeling isolated or like no one understands. Despite that very real feeling, there are people who have gone through, or who are going through, a change in their Mormon lens too. Try looking for groups on Meetup, or Facebook groups. Network through people you already know or friends of a friend.
Connect with Resources
“When Mormons Doubt” by Jon
Odgen or “Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis” by Thomas Wirthlin McConkie are both
two excellent books that are specific to Latter-Day Saints. Looking to people
of other faiths, like Tova Mirvis in “The Book of Separation” can also be
Take your time exploring
the world through your new perspective. Be patient with yourself and give
yourself the permission to say no and to take breaks. Find a therapist who can
meet you where you are and support you wherever you decide your journey will
take you. You’ve got this.
The #MeToo hashtag (and the subsequent exposing of many high-profile figures as sexual predators) has given us as a society a lot to grapple with. From a Latter-day Saint perspective, some are questioning how appropriate it is for bishops to be talking about sexual matters with young people (particularly girls). I recently sat down with hosts Peggy Fletcher Stack and David Noyce, and former LDS bishop Richard Ostler to talk about these critical issues for the Mormon Land Podcast. Here are some highlights from our discussion:
Why does this type of conversation take place in the first place? Why does the Church ask about sexuality at all? Part of our faith regulates sexual behavior, so there needs to be some questioning about that. Typically, bishops ask to what extent an individual is following the last of chastity for two reasons: the first is to grant a temple recommend (which requires a worthiness interview to determine whether the person is living the standards). The second is a general meeting that the bishop has with the youth about once a year to see how he/she is doing. What we may need to re-examine is the nature and the manner that these questions are asked in; how much detail is appropriate? How do we differentiate between issues like pornography usage, masturbation, or other sexual acts? What about cases of sexual abuse? All these nuances are important to consider in this very delicate subject of discussing sexuality with children.
As I have worked with several clients who struggle with depression, I have noticed a consistent theme among those who prescribe to religion. Many of them tend to carry a belief that if they would only be more righteous, they would not be struggling with depression, or other mental health issues. If they would only pray more or read more holy writ. If they could only be more devoted to God, Adonai, Allah, Prabhu; then this illness would be removed from them. The following are some of the challenges I have found with this flawed belief.
Most religions teach that human struggle is necessary and expected for growth and progression. Therefore, this belief is in direct conflict with the very teachings one prescribes to. Depression, or any other challenge, can be seen rather as a part of one’s “refining” process, not a detriment to it or a punishment because of that natural process.
Making a medical health comparison, I don’t believe that most people would believe their God sees physical injuries or wounds as evidence of impurity or sin. So, why then do we make that assumption regarding mental illnesses? Is it because one who is religious may associate their mind with their identity more than they would their body? Do we take more accountability for what goes on in our head than our body? Additionally, sometimes people who could use valuable treatment and resources, avoid it because they believe between themselves and God, they have it covered. Regarding our previous example of infection, wouldn’t God expect one to pray AND seek good medical care?
Why would only some be punished by depression for sin, and others not? A more accurate interpretation may be, that it has nothing to do with sin or righteousness, but rather a genetic predisposition for the illness.
Many times, those who believe that depression is a bad omen, reduce their religion to a source of guilt, rather than the uplifting support it may have been previously. Many people report that religion can be a tremendous support and relief during times of trial. The belief that one is not righteous enough to be cured of depression, robs them of the components of religion that can bring hope and peace during times or horrific challenge. Religion and God can be a tremendous tool in one’s journey to healing and health.
I believe there is a reason why so many of my clients tend to fall into this flawed thinking trap. One of the side effects of depression can be a sense of numbness or apathy. Unfortunately, when you are numb, it likely means you can’t feel God either. One may mistake the sudden lack of spiritual feelings, as a disconnection from Him, or a punishment.
I would urge all who struggle with this thought pattern now, to trust in the things you already know to be true regarding the character of your God. Allow yourself to be human and injured, the way He allows you to be.